News Release

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November 2, 2000

New Study Reveals Blacks Arrested For Marijuana At More Than Twice The Rate For Whites

        Blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at a two and a half times greater rate than whites, according to a new study published by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
        Based on 1995 Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data from 700 metropolitan counties, Jon Gettman, Ph.D., a public policy analyst and former NORML director, calculated the ratio of black arrest rates to white arrest rates from 1,076,816 out of a total 1,476,199 drug arrests reported by the UCR.  This is the most recent data set to include UCR data, U.S. Census data and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.  The full report is available at

Some important findings of this report:

Marijuana Possession Arrests

        Among the metro counties with at least a population of 500,000 with available data the greatest disparities between black and white arrest rates are found within 90 miles from each other in central and western New York state in Onondaga County, NY (Syracuse) at 10.61 blacks for every one white arrest and Monroe County, NY (Rochester) at 5.63.  Rounding out the top 10 greatest disparities in black and white marijuana possession arrest rates were Cuyahoga County, OH (Cleveland) at 5.56, Hennepin County, MN (Minneapolis) at 5.31, Fulton County, GA (Atlanta) at 5.12, Hartford County, CT (Hartford) at 4.56, Allegheny County, PA (Pittsburgh) at 4.43, Washington, DC at 4.05, Hamilton County, OH (Cincinnati) at 3.79 and Jackson County, MO (Kansas City) at 3.74.
        Fifty-six counties had over 100 marijuana arrests, a black population of over 1,000 and the marijuana possession arrest rate for blacks of at least five times that for whites.  Lake County, OH, which includes part of Cleveland as well as Lorain and Elyria had a ratio of 19.77 black arrests to white.  Rounding out the top 10 were, St. Joseph County, IN (South Bend) at 11.27, Minnehaha County, SD (Sioux Falls) at 10.71, Onondaga County (Syracuse) at 10.61, Albany County, NY (Albany, Schenectady and Troy) at 10.56, St. Louis County, MN (Duluth and Superior) at 10.34, Bay County, MN (Saginaw, Bay City and Midland) at 8.54, Douglas County, NE (Omaha) at 8.39, Cecil County, MD (Wilmington and Newark) at 8.16 and Schenectady County, NY (Albany, Schenectady and Troy) at 8.0.

Marijuana Sales Arrests

        Among counties with a minimum of 100 marijuana arrests and a black population of at least 1,000 blacks are between 6.5 and 35 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana distribution than whites.  Broome County, NY (Binghamton), had the highest ratio of black to white arrests at 34.70. In all, 12 counties had ratios over nine.  They were: Broward County, FL (Ft. Lauderdale) at 20.35, Erie County, PA (Erie) at 14.08, Plymouth County, MA (Boston) at 12.33, Cobb County, GA (Atlanta) at 12.24, Mercer County, NJ (Trenton) at 12.18, Washington, DC at 12.11, Orange County, FL (Orlando) at 9.83, New York County, NY (New York) at 9.69, Lancaster County, PA (Lancaster) at 9.51, Monroe County, NY (Rochester) at 9.20 and Kent County, MI (Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland) at 9.18.

State Rankings

The states with highest black to white arrest rate for marijuana possession are:

State Arrests Black population Rate
1.) Alaska 33 683 4,834
2.) Nebraska 1,369 61,082 2,167
3.) S. Dakota 39 2,530 1,541
4.) Wyoming 28 2,911 962.03
5.) Iowa 343 40,987 836.84

The states with lowest black to white arrest rate for marijuana possession are:

State Arrests Black population Rate
1.) Vermont 0 460 0.0
2.) Hawaii 17 33,098 51.36
3.) Maine 2 2,333 85.74
4.) New Mexico 25 17,912 139.57
5.) Pennsylvania 1,560 1,047,536 148.92

        "Racial disparities in drug arrests represent a serious threat to the integrity of the criminal justice system that should concern all Americans," said the report's author Jon Gettman, Ph.D.  "The differences in arrest rates between blacks and whites are significant, stark and unambiguous.  In the United States, black drug users face a far greater chance of encountering the criminal justice system than white drug users.  Sadly, in this area, justice is not blind."
        For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751 or visit to read the executive summary, full report and state tables.

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